Rockingham sets tax rate for FY 2015

ROCKINGHAM — The Selectboard set tax rates July 1 for fiscal year 2015.

Members voted to set a town tax rate of 0.8983 and accept an education tax rates of $1.5600 per $100 of assessed value for residential property and $1.4560 for non-residential property, as provided by the Vermont Department of Taxes.

Municipal Manager Willis “Chip” Stearns III told the board that financing for two highway vehicles amounted to $350,000, with $15,000 coming out of the budget.

Members approved financing $350,000 for highway equipment. The terms, with People's United Bank, are 1.95 percent fixed interest for four years.

Open meeting law addressed

Members also discussed recent changes to the state's open meetings law, which many towns across the state have been wrestling with.

On that front, Stearns and his executive assistant, Kerry Bennett, stressed the importance of all town boards, committees, and commissions posting agendas and minutes as required. These must also be posted on the municipal website in a timely manner.

Failure to do so, starting July 2015, could result in hundreds of dollars in fines per violation.

The board designated the Municipal Manager's office, Rockingham Town Clerk's office, Rockingham Town Hall main lobby, the Rockingham Free Public Library, and the Bellows Falls Police Department lobby, as sites were agendas and notices will be posted.

Bezanson Road faces discontinuance

The Selectboard has accepted Planning and Zoning Administrator Ellen Howard's recommendation that the town discontinue Bezanson Road pending Bellows Falls Village Corporation's acceptance of its easement deed.

On July 8, the Bellows Falls Village Corporation (BFVC) trustees discussed and approved the Bezanson Road BFVC water line easement, granting the Village access within the former town highway area for the water line and its maintenance from Green Mountain Railroad.

Emergency management plan approved

The board updated the local emergency operations plan.

Howard noted that the town would use the Recreation Center, the Town Hall, and “possibly” Bellows Falls Union High School as emergency operations centers. She said that adopting the emergency plan would help the town access funds in the event of “another Tropical Storm Irene.”

Howard also noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has once again rejected the town's Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan over a call for greater detail. Howard said she would work with the Windham Regional Commission to provide this detail.

Up to $200K surplus in General Fund

Stearns reported that the books are closed for fiscal year 2014 - with a $150,000 to $200,000 surplus recorded in the General Fund. The sum, he said, comes in part from revenue from unanticipated highway structure grants.

Stearns also reported July 1 that FEMA money for Bartonsville Bridge, stemming from damage sustained in Tropical Storm Irene, was unlikely to arrive by the end of the fiscal year.

Joint board awards contracts

The joint meeting of the Rockingham Selectboard and the Village Trustees on July 1 awarded a three-year auditor contract to RH Smith and Company, with the town agreeing to pay $19,000 per year with a $3,000 fee for a single audit for FY2015, FY2016 and FY2017.

The Village agreed to a cost of $7,000 per year with a $3,000 fee for a single audit for FY2015, FY2016, and FY2017.

Both boards agreed to award the Rockingham street construction project to Adams Trucking, with the town responsible for up to $369,168.36.

The Village responsibility to Adams Trucking included the sewer upgrade, up to $227,895.09, and Rockingham Street water line work, not to exceed $10,808.99.

At the Selectboard meeting held the same day, Karin Fischer was appointed to the Rockingham Free Public Library Board of Trustees, until the March 2016 annual meeting.

Fischer replaces former trustee Paige Pietrzak, who resigned following Village elections in May.

The Selectboard also appointed Patrick Moyna to the Planning and Zoning board for another four-year term, effective July 28.

Village Trustees accept FEMA grant

At the July 8 Village Trustees meeting, Trustees accepted a $52,000 FEMA grant for 20 sets of “bunker” equipment - protective clothing worn when responding to a call - for the BF Fire Department.

Slow down, semis

Traffic concerns were raised and discussed relating to tracker-trailer trucks turning west on Route 121 at Red Light Hill from Atkinson Street, as were concerns about semi-truck traffic speeding through Square.

Stearns was tasked with reaching out to several trucking companies to request they take alternate routes through town.

The board voted to designate a handicapped parking space in front of the Middle School within the “bus zone.”

The board also adopted a parking regulation to designate the final 100 feet of Cherry Hill Street, where it intersects with Green Street, as one-way.

Budget fund balance is $60K

Stearns told the board that the fiscal 2014 budget fund balance status was at $60,000, but invoices will still be charged to the fund. He will update the board Aug. 12.

The board awarded a bid of $29,968 to Durand Ford for a gas-powered truck requested by Bellows Falls Fire Chief William Weston.

Stearns recommended the truck be financed by taxpayers and People's United Bank. No action was taken.

The fiscal 2015 Village tax rate was set at 0.64194 cents per $100 assessed value.

Wastewater bond warning

The wastewater bond was taken up again, having not been warned in time for the Village Meeting in May.

The warning for the bond vote, Aug. 26 at the Masonic Temple, was accepted and signed by the board.

Stearns noted that the original amount for this bond was $6 million. That said, a preliminary cost estimate done by Joe Duncan of Aldrich & Elliott shows that the amount should really be $7 million.

Fluoride worries raised; utility poles still up

Chair Nancy McAuliffe noted that she had received a call from someone who was concerned about the fluoride in the municipal water supply. Trustee Sandy Martin noted that a device can be purchased that will remove fluoride from the water.

Trustee Stefan Golec asked about the many Green Mountain Power poles not yet removed from the Village. Stearns stated that many of these poles still have wires from Sovernet, Comcast, and FairPoint, and GMP is awaiting relocation of these lines before the poles can be removed.

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